Is Turkey the new hot spot for travel? Looks that way...A quickie at the Royal York
The Turkish tourism folks appear to be doing something right.
Word out of Ankara on the weekend was that Turkish tourism investors plan $24 billion U.S. in tourism industry investments over the next 13 years. That would take them to 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the country.
"Our target is to host 71 million tourists in 2023 and earn an income of 85 billion U.S. dollars from tourism in the 100th anniversary of Turkey," said Turgut Gur, head of Tourism Investors' Association of Turkey.
According to recent data, eight million visitors went to Turkey between January and May of this year. Ministry of Culture and Tourism officials say the number of foreigners visiting the country rose by 10.14 percent year-on-year during this period and Turkey expects a 10-12 percent rise in tourist number this year. Which is pretty damned impressive.
I read on the weekend where shoppers from Syria were suddenly heading to Turkey to buy all sorts of things. And Istanbul has been on many folks' radar screens for some time, with its, yes, east-meets-west feel and fascinating Western-Muslim history.
I was there for a few days once, back when Toronto was bidding against Atlanta and others for the 1996 Summer Olympics. I'm pretty sure it was May 1988 or 1989, so it's been a while. But it was pretty cool to check out the markets and the Hagia Sophia, that's for sure. Didn't much like the coffee, but they probably wouldn't want a double-double at Tim Hortons so I guess we're even.
They say the Turkish coast on the Mediterranean is stunning, and it's been a popular spot for Europeans for years. One more to add to my wish list, I guess....
ROYAL YORK AND INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO
Twenty nine years living in Toronto, and Friday night was my first stay at the Royal York Hotel. Very nice. I love the elegant, wide hallways (you won't see those in newer buildings, that's for sure) and the detailing in the halls and on the ceiling. The rooms aren't large, of course, in such a historic hotel. But they've been nicely updated with modern amenities and there was only a bit of chintz in my room, so they seem to be moving toward a newer, fresher look.
I read on a hotel fact sheet that it has 72 kilometers of carpeting, enough to stretch from Toronto to Hamilton. They also have 110 chefs in the kitchen, the largest hotel kitchen in Canada. Makes sense given all the conventions.
I didn't have time to linger in the lobby but I've always thought it was a nice combination of elegance and functionality, with comfortable chairs and a design that makes you feel regal without being too stuffy. And, yes, there are lovely photos of Liz and Phil on one wall of the hotel, which was the tallest building in the British Empire when it opened in 1929. I felt pretty small when I saw the names of some of the guests over the years: Bob Hope, Francis Ford Coppola, Drew Barrymore, Conan O'Brien, Jane Fonda, Frank Sinatr and Queen Latifah. But then I spotted Richard Simmons and suddenly felt pretty good about myself.
Didn't have a chance to try the restaurant or the bar this time, as I had booked a dinner at Azure at the Intercontinental. I didn't know what to expect but I had a great salad with lentils and a nice dressing and a very nice main course of (small) Cornish hen with veggies. My wife had pasta with lamb that was very good. It's a nice spot to look at the lights of downtown as the restaurant is in a ground-level atrium with wonderful views. Best feature was our waitress. I can't recall her name but she was knowledgeable and friendly and a sheer delight.
Speaking of the Royal York, though, I see that Fairmont is continuing with its "Everyone's an Original" program, which they say offers substantial savings. As well, they say anyone booking between July 26 and August 5, 2010 will get a $50 dining credit or a free night with the Everyone’s an Original Summer Offer*. For information: www.fairmont.com./summerPORTER SALE
Porter Airlines has three days (including today) left for its 20 per cent off sale. For information, go to www.flyporter.com. The deal ends July 28.